and The Canadian Press
A wildlife-viewing boat that ran aground with 28 people aboard has been pulled free and returned to its base at Tofino.
Everyone aboard, 26 passengers and two crew, were rescued without injury after the boat got into trouble on Saturday afternoon.
Transportation Safety Board investigators are expected in Tofino today to review what happened.
The 12-metre, 40-passenger Stellar Sea, which is covered with a glass canopy, is going to dry dock for repairs.
Stellar Sea belongs to Jamie’s Whaling Station, the same company whose larger Leviathan II overturned last year, killing six tourists.
Mohan Raman, Transportation Safety Board Pacific operations regional manager, said interviews and examinations of Stellar Sea will be conducted over the next few days.
Stellar Sea ran aground about 5:45 p.m. Saturday at a beach near Tofino. Jamie’s dispatched two smaller vessels to collect the passengers and had them back in town by 7 p.m.
They were transferred from boat to boat and nobody got wet, said Ryan Teremy, Jamie’s manager of visitor experience. “Our focus was to get the passengers off the vessel. There was no imminent danger of the vessel sinking because it was on the ground.”
On Oct. 25, 2015, Jamie’s Whaling Station’s 20-metre vessel Leviathan II capsized on a whale-watching tour. Three crew and 24 passengers were aboard. Six died, one Australian and five Britons. Raman said the report into Leviathan II is still being completed.
Teremy said Jamie’s Whaling Station understands that the Leviathan II capsizing brings extra scrutiny to the company, even to relatively minor incidents such as the grounding.
He said Stellar Sea was taking visitors on a bear-watching tour. The trips are done at low tide and aim to let people see a bear foraging for crabs and other marine life at the shoreline.
“The ironic thing about groundings is that they are actually more common than people think. There has already been four or five with other companies this season, but because of what happened with us last year, we get more attention,” he said.
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